Is Davos the reason for non-attendance at TÜSİAD meetings?

Is Davos the reason for non-attendance at TÜSİAD meetings?

One cannot say that Turkey’s prestigious Turkish Industry and Business Association (TÜSİAD) has always been on good terms with the government.

Taking a look at other countries, actually, it is a common practice for “the clubs of the bosses” and governments to have showdowns from time to time. However, in Turkey, these showdowns are more frequent and harsher, sending waves throughout all levels of government.

TÜSİAD head Haluk Dinçer’s recent remarks in an interview with Cansu Çamlıbel of daily Hürriyet caused all hell to break loose. “The president is the head of the state. TÜSİAD’s interlocutor is not the president, it is the prime minister and relevant Cabinet ministers,” Dinçer said.

In response, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said, “If TÜSİAD does not recognize us, then we will not participate in their events.”

But actually, when you review Çamlıbel’s interview, every word is carefully chosen and respectful. Dinçer particularly emphasized Erdoğan’s visit to TÜSİAD last September, after three-and-a-half years.

Reaction to the interview also came from Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu. Davutoğlu said he would not participate in TÜSİAD’s general assembly on Jan. 22. As a matter of fact, when PM Davutoğlu took office, it was TÜSİAD that visited him first, and they talked about government-NGO relations.

Leading economist Daron Acemoğlu from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) focuses on government-civil society relations, arguing that the dialogue with nongovernmental organizations such as TÜSİAD, the Independent Industrialists and Businessmen Association (MÜSİAD), and women’s organizations, will be benchmarks for Turkey’s development. In other words, what is required is exactly the opposite of “polarization.”

Another reaction came from Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş, who described Dinçer’s words as “absurd,” adding that the president would not recognize TÜSİAD either. I am not even sure whether Kurtulmuş has read the Dinçer interview.

Meanwhile, the head of the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce (İTO) İbrahim Çağlar joined the debate as the head of an NGO, saying that İTO would consider both the president and the prime minister as interlocutors. Well, one would not expect any different from an İTO chair who recently banned alcohol at its club on the Asian side of Istanbul.

More recently, Family and Social Policies Minister Ayşenur İslam said she would not participate in an upcoming TÜSİAD event.

Nobody is expecting relations between TÜSİAD, the president and the government that have been strained to this extent to recover overnight.

It was only two years ago when the then head of TÜSİAD, Ümit Boyner, during a similar crisis between the same two sides, took a box of chocolates with her and visited EU Minister and chief negotiator Egemen Bağış in Brussels.

Well, here is a question in my mind: Could it be that Prime Minister Davutoğlu is not able to attend TÜSİAD’s general assembly on Jan. 22 because it coincides with the World Economic Forum at Davos?

If so, then instead of mentioning Davos as the reason for not attending, what good is served by sharpening polarization by using phrases like “the president is not our interlocutor”?